“There is some very valuable and heartfelt advice to be had in this article from Ryan Thomas on ASCD Edge about the experiences of being a first-year principal. In addition, the link he provides to ASCD's free principal coaching guide is definitely worth a download. Many of us have been there, myself included, and we've all borne on our backs the trials and the rewards that come with such a position. What is offered in the following tips is supportive, nurturing, and constructive in every way, and I urge you to take the ideas herein to heart. Move forward, keep your head up, and do the best you can—you're not alone.”
Most of us who have spent time in the field of education can intuit the demands principals face, but experiencing it is something altogether different. To help you prepare for your first year as a principal, we’d like to share 15 pieces of advice from former first-year principals, all of which come from Tena Green’s book, Your First Year as Principal.
- Learn to differentiate between what needs to be settled right away and what requires reflection and input from others.
- Understand that you cannot do everything by yourself. And even if you could, it would still be difficult (if not impossible) to get buy-in from others if they did not have a voice in the decision-making process.
- Accept that you cannot be everything to everyone. Learn to differentiate between the things that require your attention and those that you can turn over to others.
- Take care of yourself physically, academically, and emotionally.
- Realize that you do not have to have all the answers.
- Avoid making important decisions quickly. Our culture thrives on immediate responses and instant gratification, so you may feel the pressure to respond to important emails or make high-stakes decisions off the cuff. Resist this temptation. Resist external pressure to make rash decisions.
- Open your eyes more than your mouth.
- Never forget what it was like to be a teacher.
- Understand both the culture and the hidden culture of a school.
- Get out of the office as often as you can. Save paperwork for the end of the day when things quiet down.
- Always share the credit and celebrate victories often.
- Develop a personal mission statement. Write it down. Read it every morning. Make it happen.
- Collaborate with faculty and staff to create a unified school vision.
- Accept that you may face resentment from staff members who were contenders for your position. Sure, you may win some of them over by adding them to various teams or by acknowledging their talents—but others may never be won over through no fault of your own.
- There is no need to trumpet your authority. Everyone already knows you are in charge.